8 Tips to Help Perfect Your Interviewing Game

Opinion: Presenting yourself in the best light possible

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The coronavirus has impacted the way recruiters do business–but they are finding new ways to connect with talent in lockdown. Getty Images
Headshot of Marc Stephenson Strachan

Thank goodness we have elevated the status and stature of human resources again after years of relegating the practice to second class citizenship.

Today’s chief talent officers are savvy about hiring. They are more focused on development, nurturing, mentoring, championing and, ergo, retaining talent. The investments are too great. For those seeking employment, transitional moves or internal shifts, it is equally important to know what today’s talent leads are challenged to deliver.

You, prospective talent, must be better prepared to help. You must be ready, poised to shine in your best light. Assume nothing and take absolutely nothing for granted, despite who you know or if you believe that you have an inside track.

I hereby provide you with some tips/pointers/guidelines/guardrails/insights/scoops/leverage points that may help your journey. I don’t profess to be a guru or have the HR book of revelations, but—to borrow from the Farmers Insurance commercial—“I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

Be true to yourself

Are you truly qualified for the role you are applying for? If not, don’t waste people’s time just to get in some interviewing practice. If you are not ready with the qualifications, experience and capabilities, sit this one out. It will be greatly appreciated.

Discuss the opportunity with people who know you and your career accomplishments up to this point. This includes any mentors you may have. Seek candid and direct feedback relative to your readiness and capability to meet the role’s stated criteria.

Don’t be afraid to (respectfully) toot your horn

Create a personal development plan. Sell your brand, showcase your work, accomplishments and capabilities relative to the role. Stress what makes you an excellent candidate and link your previous and current accomplishments to the requirements. Think it through.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

I can’t tell you how many people I have interviewed who were not properly prepared. Please note, there are varying level of preparedness. If it is an internal role, promotion or transitional, research the team and its leaders. Know the category, driving issues and challenges. Get a sense of the team and assess how you will fit in. Talk to peers and colleagues to gauge how they operate. Chemistry is an important ingredient for success.

If it is an external role or with a company that you have never worked with, research the company, its history, leadership, values, current news (i.e., mergers or acquisitions) and brands. I’ve had people mispronounce a company name (this is a turn off for some interviewers) and associate the wrong brands with a specific company. I even had a potential candidate order a competitive product while out to dinner with me. Not a good look at all.

Pack all your stuff the night before. Don’t leave anything to chance for the morning/day of the interview. Prepare a checklist. Go over it extensively. Make sure you have at least two clean copies of your resume, regardless of the fact that you sent it in via email prior. Select your outfit and all the accessories, especially a pen (try not to over accessorize, though). Polish your shoes and lay out clothes to avoid wrinkles.

Practice, and then practice some more

Have you heard of the elevator speech technique? Can you deliver your pitch in a nanosecond with confidence, self -assuredness and poise? Like a new business pitch, you must practice. Do it in front of a mirror a thousand times.

Rehearse and act out scenarios with friends and significant others, allowing you to get in some real-life reaction time. Discard from your lexicon any hard to pronounce or fancy words or terms that you might be having difficulty with or stumbling over. Rehearsals will expose these gaps so you can tighten up and polish your game ahead of time.

Be honest

Make sure your resume is accurate with no embellishments or stretching the truth. The last thing you need is to appear to be someone that is dishonest. It is a tough stain to wash off and can haunt you. Many companies red-flag candidates in their system if they find major discrepancies in stated performance highlights. It’s just not worth it.

Honest mistakes or misinterpretations happen. Most can be reasonably explained away. Make sure you can back up everything you state on your resume.

Be brave and engaging

Interviews are—and should be—two-way interactions. Ask tough questions (with respect). Seek clarity on the expectations and deliverables of the role and the company’s focus. Seek insight into current moves or shifts in game plans that you might have heard about through news or trade associations.

Be on time

Allow enough time for travel and getting through security, aiming to arrive at the reception desk within 10 minutes of the interview time.
Hit the restroom, freshen up and calm your anxieties from the stress of travel. Look in the mirror and make sure your look is right.

Send HR and/or interviewers a thank you note within 24 hours

Be sure to extend thanks to any/all who assisted in the process along the way. Some do this in the form of a recap of the interview, but regardless it’s important to do. You can use email for this to make sure timing is sound.

While technology has afforded us the luxury of sending emails, I still find a handwritten note adds a personal touch. Consider going out and buying nice stationary and stamps, and follow up with a note.

Learn from each session and interview. Debrief yourself, and if or when applicable, ask for feedback.

Now, go forth and conquer!

Marc Stephenson Strachan is chairman of ADCOLOR, Inc. and a senior marketing and advertising industry executive.